Never Say Never

From the moment we all arrived in Interlaken, we all had extreme sports on our minds. We excitedly ran to the lobby to sign up for all of our adventures. But there was one activity that didn’t exactly me. Canyoning. I had heard it described as “white water rafting but without a raft.” This absolutely terrified me and I knew one thing. I knew that I would never go canyoning. Ever.

One event led to another and before I knew it, I had signed myself up for the one thing I said I would never do. This sounds crazy to willingly face your biggest fear, but I didn’t want to go through the rest of CR with any “what ifs?” and I wanted to face what I was scared of head on. I was now signed up to canyon in the morning and skydive in the afternoon. I was one million times more nervous for canyoning than skydiving, which again sounds completely backwards.

Before I knew it, we were all getting into our wetsuits and beginning our climb up to where we would enter the canyon. For the next hour and a half, we were diving off of huge rocks and sliding down rapids all in freezing cold water. I would like to give a massive shout out to the other 7 members of the familia who were in my group for canyoning. Without them I don’t think I would have dove head first into the water; literally and figuratively. They lent helping hands during fast currents and were incredibly encouraging when I didn’t think that I could ever jump off of the rock. Will I ever go canyoning again? Probably not. Was I glad that I did it?Heck yes! I had done something that was completely out of my comfort zone and something that I never thought I could do. The next adventure was skydiving. After making it through canyoning alive, I knew that there was nothing that I couldn’t do. Without the involvement of water, skydiving did not terrify me nearly as much as canyoning. In fact, it excited me! That isn’t to say that I wasn’t a little nervous to free-fall out of a plane, but composted to canyoning, the fear was minuscule. We were all hyping each other up as we got into our suits, which helped to calm my nerves. Truthfully, I don’t think that I had entirely processed the fact that in mere minutes I would be jumping out of a plane in the Swiss Alps. The minutes flew by, and the next thing I know I was strapped to my instructor, Craig, in a tiny plane getting ready to jump. I will never forget the moment when I saw Emma roll out of the plane, as she was the first to jump. That is the exact moment that it hit me. A minute later, I was free-falling. To say this was the coolest feeling ever would be an understatement. The parachute was released and then we were just floating over the mountains. Below me, I could see houses and roads and all around me were the most beautiful mountains I had ever seen. I never wanted this come to an end. I proclaimed to my instructor mid-flight that this would not be the last time I would skydive. I’m so thankful for Interlaken and CR for allowing me to break through my comfort zone, all in the presence of 17 other amazing individuals.

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Bird Can’t Fly in the Cage

Remember Ausgang?

Well, I did the ultimate Ausgang yesterday.

I jumped out of a plane voluntarily.

Before the ultimate leap, our group spent what felt like an eternity at the Skydive Switzerland warehouse, waiting and watching. Every time I saw that small plane make its ascent into the vast sky and release miniscule specks one by one that were barely visible to the naked eye, I became increasingly trepidatious. That speck was the lives of two humans and that speck was free-falling.

But, if I want my life to be a wild, crazy adventure, then I just had to step out of my sphere of comfortability and take leaps (specifically out of airplanes). So, suit on, harness tightened, and expert-man behind me, I stepped into that sketchy airplane and refused to look back.

I did look down though.

And as I looked down I saw the city of Interlaken from the eyes of the birds. I saw the peaks and valleys and houses and businesses and clouds and sun all in one frame. The Creation stunned me; the earth was pulsing with life. And what was I thinking about in this very moment, as I peered down? my tenth-grade English class.

This class was agonizing to sophomoric Olivia. We had to deal with the devil of all elements of English for a whole school-year—poetry. The horror! (Little did I know, I would end up being a writing minor one day and actually enjoy poetry.) Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to appreciate Hopkin’s, “God’s Grandeur,” back then. Luckily, I am able to appreciate it now.

“God’s Grandeur” is a 19th century poem that talks about the earth and its relationship to the divine. It also talks about humanity’s negligence of that. As humans, we are exploiting the earth at a fast rate, but seeing Interlaken from 10,000 feet up, I was reminded that the whole earth is coursing with God’s vivacity. As much as I fangirl over the artwork nature is, God is the painter, and a painter cares about His creation more than a mere fan.

Fast forward to today, I was reminded yet again of Ms. Issac’s laborious English class. As we were exploring the Swiss Alps, I was only in more awe of the earth, of the sphere we were given. “The world is charged with the glory of God.” That one line kept repeating in my head. “The world is charged, the world is charged, the world is charged.” I felt it—the charge. Nature has a way of doing that. No matter how much man depletes the earth, God’s hand is still pulsing over the ground; He still prevails. No matter how much beauty man can artificially make, there’s still something unique in the natural beauty in our world. The Swiss Alps confirmed that for me. So, thanks Ms. Isaac for forcing us to meticulously dissect “God’s Grandeur.” I finally get it.

 

Highs and Lows

I never expected to jump off a cliff into a river fed by glacier runoff or to paraglide in the Swiss Alps, but that’s what I did today.

After an exhausting day of traveling from Munich, Germany to Interlaken, Switzerland, we arrived at our hostel. Dr. Pitcock told us that as soon as we put our bags in our rooms, we could come back down and sign up for adventure activities. I was simultaneously excited and extremely nervous. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. Being the indecisive person that I am, I decided to look at all the options and overwhelm myself with choices. Great move, Audrey. There were so many different activities available to us, from skydiving to kayaking to bungee jumping and so much more. I spent a long time debating every option and eventually made a decision. I originally thought I had narrowed it down to just kayaking and so I could have a peaceful, relaxing day, but that couldn’t have been farther from the truth. In order to strengthen my bond with more people on CR and to push myself out of my comfort zone, I decided to canyon. Not only that, but I decided in a spur of the moment decision to add paragliding to my list. I walked away from the signup list, quickly realizing I was going to participate in two life-threatening activities in one day. Now that I have done both, I can tell you that this was one of the most exciting days of my life.

For those of you that don’t know, canyoning is an activity in which you jump from various high places into an ice-cold river and move down the river without a raft of any kind. That’s right, you did read that correctly. We put on wetsuits, helmets, and life jackets, rappelled into a canyon in the Swiss Alps, and hurled ourselves from 15 feet drops into a river, avoiding landing on rocks and getting sucked into currents along the way down. It definitely doesn’t seem like the smartest or safest idea, but we had an absolute blast. Our tour guides were fantastic and gave us clear directions. A few times, though, we thought they were joking when they told us what we were supposed to do. One of my favorite moments of the canyoning trip occurred after we rappelled around a giant rock in the side of the cliff face like Tarzan. We climbed down from the swinging point, feeling accomplished that we avoided falling into the swirling, almost whirlpool-like area way below us. Our tour guide Matt then turned around and told us to climb back the way we came, because we were going to cannonball straight into that whirlpool-like area. We thought he was joking at first, but he was completely serious. Those moments were terrifying. I looked down the drop, waiting for the tour guide to count me off, certain that I would bash my head against a rock or get stuck in an undercurrent in the water and die. Thankfully, none of that happened, but today was definitely an exercise in trust. Our group had so much fun bonding over how ridiculously cold we were and talking about how relieved we felt that we didn’t die between every jump. There were so many great moments. Indigo almost jumped when the tour guides weren’t ready and Matt had to yank her backward onto the rock so he could count her down. The helmets had names on them so the guides had to refer to us by our helmet names, so we spent several minutes cracking up about Ryal being called “Snooki” and Kyle being named “Frodo”. We laughed together and freaked out together and supported each other when we got scared. It was a wonderful bonding experience.

Next was paragliding. I was so thankful that Marat offered to go with me, because I would not have done it on my own. It was one of the most unbelievable moments of my life. We got on a bus and drove up a huge mountain. My paragliding guide constantly joked around with me about only having 11 days of experience as he set up the parachute. We strapped in and prepared for takeoff. Unfortunately, the wind had other ideas. It took us five tries to get off the ground because the wind was so inconsistent. Eventually, however, we ran down the hill and the wind lifted us into the air. I have never seen a view like the one I saw today in my life. There are no words to describe the experience of flying thousands of meters in the air with the Swiss Alps, two gorgeous glittering lakes, and the city of Interlaken below you. I grinned the whole time we were in the air. It was humbling to see God’s beautiful creation from the air in that way, and I spent most of the ride taking everything in and feeling thankful for the opportunity I have to grow while on this experience. I don’t think people take enough time in their busy lives to look up, so literally being up high today made me realize that, despite the issues we may have in our lives, we have so much to be grateful for. I also really enjoyed getting to steer the paraglide for a little bit and doing some rollercoaster-type stunts in the paraglider.

I ended the day with Jacob, Marat, and Dr. Pitcock. We rode a train up the mountain and took time to appreciate the view and talk. While this activity wasn’t as thrilling as the other activities today, I enjoyed spending time with them and getting to know them a little better while looking at the Swiss Alps. There aren’t many times in life where I will be able to make that statement, so I took the time to enjoy it today.

While today didn’t turn out exactly as I thought it would, I had so much fun. The lessons I learned today aren’t drastic, but they are good reminders.

1. Be careful when you’re wading through waist-deep water. There might be rocks that you can’t see.

2. The highs and the lows in life have valuable lessons to teach, whether you mean high and low figuratively or literally. In today’s case, it was literal.

3. Expect the unexpected.

4. Remember to take the time to appreciate the world around you.

5. Push yourself out of your comfort zone once in a while. You might experience something incredible.

Full Sends Only

I have always thought of myself as an adventurer. It is pretty rare that I say no to things, but when I do, it is usually because one thing holds me back. Throughout my life, I have built up a pretty significant fear of heights. Ladders, bridges, and stairs with holes in them just about bring me to tears every time.  So, this next part, coming from the girl who cannot walk to the second floor of the Apple store because the stairs are made of glass, is going to come as quite a surprise to all of you, as it did me.

Canyon jumping. I have always been a mountain girl, so this adventure seemed quite fitting for me, but I had no idea what was in store. First of all, we went on the beginner level so I can’t even imagine what the expert was going to be like. We were repelling off cliffs, jumping off 14 foot rocks, and rock sliding down a canyon. Repelling was my first face off with my fear of heights. I repeatedly told our guide to not let my hand go and that he was not holding the rope tight enough. He proceeded to drop me anyway and I am very glad he did. One thing conquered made the rest come easier and easier. With only a few hesitations throughout the course, I finished canyon jumping with a smile that went ear to ear. Our group absolutely crushed it and we even made some new friends from South Carolina along the way.  With our adrenaline running high, we felt like we could do just about anything in that moment. I was quite excited for the later half of our day because of my adrenaline high, but as soon as that high came down, the nerves kicked in for the craziest thing I was ever going to do in my entire life.

Skydiving. No, not just skydiving. Skydiving in the Swiss Alps, in Interlaken, Switzerland. I never in a million years would guess that I would skydive. Especially because two days earlier, I cried going on a bridge because I could see through a tiny crack. I really cannot give you a good answer on why I chose to do this to myself, but it seemed like a one in a lifetime opportunity, so I forced myself to do it. Aside from deciding to go to TCU in the first place, this was the best decision of my life. I couldn’t have asked for a better or more selfless group of people to do it with as they were constantly putting my feelings before theirs. When you come to terms that you are going to jump out of a plane and you say you aren’t nervous, YOU’RE LYING. With nerves high, these wonderful people still encouraged me and continually told me how proud they were of me. I could not be more thankful to share such an incredible experience with such incredible people.

When I met my guide, I proceeded to tell him that I was afraid of heights, hoping that he would be able to do some magical thing to make me feel better. Yeah, no, that only made matters worse. By telling him this, it opened doors to jokes about my harness being broken, how if I see the light he’ll see me there, etc. As much as he freaked me out, I knew he was an expert and I had no other choice than to put my life in his hands at that moment (He really was a great guide though, I promise). As he opened the door, I knew there was no other way down, I was going to have to skydive. The scariest part of skydiving is definitely putting your feet on the outside of the plane. I closed my eyes the during the entirety of leaving the plane and I am not ashamed one bit. I felt us flip over, my stomach facing the ground, and I opened my eyes. I saw the most beautiful picture of God’s green earth and I was soaring over it. It felt like a dream. As I was staring at His creation, I couldn’t help but be in awe of the work of His hands. As I took it all in, my mood suddenly changed. I was AMPED. I was free falling 13,000 feet in the air, in the Swiss Alps, looking at the Lord’s most incredible work…Man, I love God, HE’S SO COOL. We fell for about 45 seconds and then paraglide down to safely land. If you ever need the feeling of conquering the world or a self confidence booster, go skydiving, I promise you will receive all of those feelings. Oh, and also, I’M ALIVE!!!

Long story short, today I lived my dream day. Fears were conquered, trust was furthered, friendships went deeper (or higher, either one), and life got even better than I ever could have imagined. I am so thankful for the opportunities that have arisen from CR, I am very blessed to be here. One last shout out to the Big Man upstairs for allowing us to to explore his creation and keeping us safe while doing it.

When in Interlaken…

Full sends only.

Sky Diving, Rocky Mountain Climbing

I think Tim McGraw would be very proud of CR10 today. Today I, along with many other CR members, went sky diving AND canyoning (rocky mountain climbing, and falling, essentially). I also kind of learned how to do a headstand (thank you Brittany and Lauren for holding my legs up). Today was full of literal and emotional highs, smiles, and singing. I loved singing Tim McGraw’s song “Live Like You Were Dying” with the entire bus of eleven CR members who were anxious to leap out of a plane and accelerate towards the Earth. All we need now is to ride a bull named Fu Man Chu for 2.7 seconds, and we would really be living, according to Tim McGraw. Maybe it’s coming in Italy, stay tuned….

When I first heard about the opportunity to sky dive from the people who were on CR 9, I was all about it. I have been looking forward to this day of adventure from the moment I knew that there could be a chance of it coming to fruition. I absolutely love an adventure that pushes my comfort zone, and for anyone who knew me as a child you would never believe this statement. I was able to share a little bit of my elementary school personality at dinner, but I was extremely shy. My mom even spent a whole summer teaching me how to look people in the eye when I would talk to them. This is surprising now because I am a huge extrovert, feeding off of other people’s energy and enjoying the company of many people. Never in a million years would my younger self have pictured my 19-year-old self skydiving or canyoning, but I couldn’t be happier that I did. I gave up a lot of control today over the outcome of each situation, and it was so freeing. It was also terrifying in a few ways, as you can probably imagine. I usually like to have control over life, keeping things the way that I like them and avoiding failure or conflict at all costs. Today it wasn’t in my ability to ensure that the situations went perfectly. I had to trust that I would be okay and these people and parachutes would save me. It was a leap of faith to not be able to control the situation, but every time that I relinquish my control, a grand adventure takes place. Today was just that- an adventure made incredible by the lack of control and the thrill of the unknown.

The experiences of sky diving and canyoning brought many of us together, in that we were unsure of what each event would hold for us. We released our control and, for some, their huge fear of heights and trusted each other, the parachutes, and the ropes. I am incredibly impressed with Emma Hofmeister, the girl who told me going in that there was no chance she would walk across a suspended bridge. She did it all today and even led the way for much of the canyoning trip. She was the first one out of the plane to skydive and didn’t shed a tear, or pee her pants (viable options for both of us).

Today it was comforting to be surrounded by each other, but ultimately it was an individual decision. Each time we jumped off of a huge rock into the depths of the canyon in a superman, quarter turn, flat on your back, don’t hit this rock or you might be seriously injured pose, it was an individual choice. However, I always knew that when I surfaced from the beautifully clear and icy water, that Jake, Jacob, Emma, Olivia, and Brooke would be there to help me out and cheer me on. I also knew that after I made the decision to slide out of the plane hooked to a guide and a parachute that I trusted with my life, that Ryal would be there to give me a huge hug and the rest of the squad would be cheering as well. Today I gave up a lot of control, and gained a lot of trust. I was forced to trust the harness and the parachute, but I also had to trust the people around me to encourage and stand by me in all the adventures. It is so encouraging to know that these people stand be beside me in discussing the hard moments of suffering in Dachau, as well as sharing in the spontaneous moments of free falling in the Swiss Alps.

I can’t leave this blog post without mentioning the stunning beauty of Interlaken, Switzerland. I’m not fully convinced that the mountains and the lakes are real because they are just so beautiful. It is beauty unparalleled to anything I have ever seen before, matched with the relaxed and quaint town of Interlaken. As we were going up in the plane, we were around the height of the mountains when my sky diving instructor told me we were at 2,000 feet. I was scared at this point because we were already so high. He then told me we would be at 11,000 feet before we jumped. My heart skipped a beat. I can now say that I have touched a cloud and that I lived to tell the tale (sorry mom for the heart attack that I gave you).

Today was the ultimate Ausgang, and if you don’t know what that word is check out Olivia Chambers’ blog post because it is an amazing word.

AUSGANG & AMPLEMANN !!

Olivia

What A Day

So Marat woke me up this morning exactly 2 seconds before my alarm went off to head downstairs to do a quick morning worship sesh. After spending sometime in 1 Peter, I realized time had flown by and I didn’t have much time to eat breakfast. So I hurried to the breakfast table and was blown away by what was there.

They had real Nutella.

I know right? How could this day possibly get better? Well it did. I scarfed down my breakfast, checked out a beach towel – these hostels don’t like customers taking their shower towels on their adventures. A van picked our group up, and we headed to our first adventure of the day. We put on our wetsuits, grabbed some sketchy water shoes without ankle support, and a helmet with a funny name on it. Of course I went for the Frodo helmet, since we’re about the same height.

The end result looked like this:

Yeah. We’re tough.

What could we possibly be doing in all this gear you might ask? Well… I don’t really know how to explain it. It’s called canyoning. You kinda have to experience it to understand, or watch a video on YouTube or something. The best description I’ve heard is “white water rafting without the raft.” We slide down several chutes in a river, rappelled down a big rock, flew like Superman into the current below us, and almost slipped serval times. But most of all, we had a great time. The entire group was grinning ear to ear (except for Taylor because she cut her finger). We had three guides: Stef (a Swiss native), Nina (from Germany), and Matt (from New Zealand). I’m pretty sure Matt secretly hated Indigo and me for constantly saying “amazing” in an Australian accent, but we weren’t going to have it any other way.

Once we made it to the bottom and got back to the base, I had some coffee – the caffeine was needed for the rest of the day -, took a hot shower, and got suckered into paying for a highlight video from the trip. Ah Who am I kidding? There was never a shadow of a doubt in my mind that I was going to buy the video.

Don’t worry the day didn’t end there.

The next activity consisted of getting a kebab just down the street. If you think that sounds boring, that’s because you just read about canyoning. The kebab was a fantastic experience. It was food, and in the words of Dr. Pitcock, “this is the hungriest CR yet.”

But wait! There’s more!!

After some down time, 11 of us met in the lobby to go to the land of Myth known as “drop zone.” We were all extremely excited and ready to go, but the van picking us up got stuck in traffic, so the hype was kinda lulled. Don’t worry though. We didn’t even know what hype was until we were almost at the end of the activity. I debated ending the post there to keep you in suspense, but then I realized that other people are probably going to post about it anyways.

So we got to the runway, took some sweet pics (see below), and tried to contain our excitement for what was about to happen. Here are some of the pictures of us before we got on the plane.

(Sorry, Mom. I didn’t position myself correctly in the jumping picture so you can’t really see me, but I promise I’m in it)

What followed was an unforgettable experience. I free fell from 13,000 feet out of an airplane, did a barrel roll and a back flip, and then fell through the cloud of a storm that came out of nowhere. I don’t know how many people reading this have been to Interlaken, but it truly is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, and the beauty from that high up as you plummet towards it is impossible to explain. Also I definitely screamed like a pre-pubescent teenage boy when I jumped. Unfortunately, I won’t have the pictures for a few days, but when I do, they’ll be all over the Insta and I’ll update this blog post! I know the blog has been pretty heavy lately, and we’ve definitely been feeling that weight as well. Today was a much needed break from the emotional limits we’ve been pushing on this experience, and I hope you can see that from the smiles on our faces (and from the irony of the “serious” pictures).